Harbhajan Singh's [ Images ] magnificent spell of spin bowling helped India [ Images ] beat Zimbabwe by an innings and 90 runs on the fourth day of the first Test at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, on Friday.
The off-spinner took 4 for 59 as the Zimbabwean lower order posed stiff resistance for nearly two hours before India claimed the last four wickets.
Irfan Pathan [ Images ] had run through the Zimbabwe top order on Thursday, claiming 4 for 53 to register match figures of 9 for 111. He was rightly named the man of the match.
For Zimbabwe, captain Tatenda Taibu led from the front, scoring two half-centuries and also had a good time behind the stumps.
Zimbabwe played positively despite staring at certain defeat. Taibu carried on playing his strokes, and Andy Blignaut also got off to a flier, as Zimbabwe reached 100 for 6 in 24th over, at more than four runs per over.
Harbhajan claimed the first wicket when he broke through Blignaut's defence. The Zimbabwe all-rounder, who scored 26, was deceived in the flight and the ball crashed on to his stumps. (110-7, 27.4)
At the other end, Taibu was waging a lone battle against the Indian spinners. He reached his half-century with a well-timed cover drive off Anil Kumble [ Images ]. The Zimbabwe captain's ninth half-century in Test cricket took 75 balls, and included eight boundaries.
He, however, feel to a beauty from Kumble, on 52. The veteran leg spinner got the ball to turn and bounce a bit, taking the edge of Taibu's bat straight into wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik's [ Images ] gloves. (130-8, 34.2)
The spinners came into their own against the tail-enders, with Harbhajan claiming the ninth Zimbabwe wicket, that of Keith Dabengwa. The left-hander was beaten by the straighter ball, which pitched on off-stump and hit him on the back pad right in front of the stumps. (138-9, 35.4)
Harbhajan nearly had his fourth wicket, but Gautam Gambhir [ Images ], at short leg, dropped an easy catch off Ewing in the 40th over of the innings.
Ewing and Blessing Mahwire delayed the inevitable for the next 12 overs with some intelligent cricket. They put on 47 runs for the final wicket, playing the spinners late and rotating the strike at will, something the top order will need to learn and implement if hope to put up a better showing in the next Test.
Harbhajan took the final wicket when he trapped Ewing leg before wicket for 34 to finish with 4 for 59. (185-10, 47.5)
Zimbabwe were bowled out for 185; they lost the Test by an innings and 90 runs. It was the second Test victory for India in Zimbabwe in five attempts.
The hosts, however, did not bow out without a fight. The lower order fought valiantly, making India slog for 29.5 overs on Friday, scoring 118 runs and losing the last four wickets.